Sport and Empire: The curious case of 'Ireland' and the 1930 British Empire Games

Katie/K Liston, joseph maguire

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper examines an apparent paradox in the history of British and Irish sport, thatis, the participation of ‘Irish’ athletes in the British Empire Games (BEG) of the 1930s.Crucially, issues of national and cultural identity were interwoven with questionsconcerning the organisation of sport on a pan-Ireland basis and the allegiance of teamsin international competition. The Irish Free State (IFS) had been established in 1922,though six counties of Ireland had remained part of the United Kingdom (UK). Thisterritory was to become known as Northern Ireland. In the following period,culminating in the establishment of the Irish / Eire Constitution (1937), severalamendments were made to IFS laws that removed reference to an oath of allegiance tothe British crown and severed links to UK jurisdiction, but crucially maintained that "thewhole island of Ireland its islands and the territorial seas" formed a single "nationalterritory". Despite this context, and the related tension that emerged around 'Irish'involvement in the Olympic Games at that time, ‘Ireland’ participated both in theinaugural BEG in 1930 and also in 1934, but by 1938 only Northern Ireland wasinvolved. Significantly, the BEG were replete with the pageantry of the Empire and withathletes swearing allegiance to the crown. Participation in the BEG highlights the role ofsport in constructing different ideas of what it means to be Irish during a period whichwas characterized by palpable resistance to participation in English or British sportsteams and political separation. It also reflects much of the politics of the then waningEmpire
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherNot applicable
Number of pages0
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 13 Jun 2015
EventEuropean Association for Sociology of Sport Conference -
Duration: 13 Jun 2015 → …


ConferenceEuropean Association for Sociology of Sport Conference
Period13/06/15 → …


  • Sport
  • Empire
  • Commonwealth
  • Games
  • national identity
  • Ireland


Dive into the research topics of 'Sport and Empire: The curious case of 'Ireland' and the 1930 British Empire Games'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this